For the first time in quite a while, the Cubs won a series on the road. They did so by smacking many extra-base hits (11 doubles and four home runs) all around PNC Park. In fact, the Cubs have the third highest slugging percentage in the majors (.548) over the last week. Could this mean the bats are finally coming around and showing their power? Let’s hope so, because they welcome the San Diego Padres, a team known for its power.
The Padres do not hit for average or get on base with high frequency, but they do hit home runs and rely on them to drive runs in. During the series in San Diego, they hit three home runs and drove in seven runs on those bombs. Their total run production in that series was 12, so more than half of their runs were driven in on those three hits. In order to limit their offense, Cubs pitching must keep the ball in the park.
Limiting the offense is only half of the equation. The Cubs have to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Padre pitchers. In San Diego, the Cubs left 25 men on base and were 2-for-26 (.077 BA) with runners in scoring position. They should have won the series easily, but were unable to come through in situations ripe for scoring runs.
Good news: Cubs hitters have been much better at driving in runs with men on base and in scoring position as of late. In the last six games against the Mets and Pirates, the Cubs are 17-for-52 (.327 BA) with runners in scoring position and have left 35 men on base. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but it seems as though the bats have, in fact, found whatever magic or spark they were in need of.
Anthony Rizzo has been on a tear the past 12 games. He’s walked 11 times while striking out only eight, has nine extra-base hits (five doubles, four homers), and has driven in 15 while scoring 11 runs. Rizzo has also gone 18-for-44 (.409), getting at least one hit in each of those dozen contest. He is crushing the ball, hitting line drives 33.3 percent of the time with a hard-hit rate of 44.4 percent. I know it’s not sustainable, but it sure is fun to watch, especially since he’s leading off now.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Monday, June 19 at 7:05 CT on CSN
- Tuesday, June 20 at 7:05 CT on CSN
- Wednesday, June 21 at 1:20 CT on WGN
What to Watch For
Look for the Padres starters to approach Anthony Rizzo differently than opposing pitchers have to start the game. Generally, pitchers have been throwing him stuff he’s able to crush easily. I expect them to pitch more cautiously to Rizzo this series, staying away and making him adjust.
Given recent offensive trends, the Cubs should win this series with relative ease. Pay particular attention to how the Cubs’ hitters look in the box with guys on base. Are they up there guessing, or are they going up with a plan and seeing the ball well enough to execute?
When Eddie Butler takes the mound on Tuesday, note how well he is able to command his pitches. As can be seen by his K/BB ratio, he has some trouble with walks. The stuff’s there, but so far he has not been able to generate many strikeouts. This can be attributed to his inability to consistently find the zone. If he can show some semblance of command, the Cubs should be in a good position to win that game.